Investing In Agent Experience: The Key To Delivering Customer Excellence

Investing In Agent Experience: The Key To Delivering Customer Excellence

The Importance of Agent Experience (AX)

Customer experience (CX) is a significant driver of business success in the modern age. Customers expect more than just good products and solutions; they want authentic personalized experiences, high quality, and delivery of the brand promise. This does not happen without prioritizing agent experiences and investing in their success.

Agents are the front line just as much, if not more, than sales teams. Service agents have the power to make or break a company’s success. It’s no secret that engaged agents are motivated, connected, and satisfied with their job, team, and organization, and this connection transfers to the customer.

Investing in agent experience is about more than just providing them with the proper training and tools. It is also related to helping them feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, providing support and resources, and empowering agents to succeed. So let’s dig deeper into agent engagement tactics.

    Invest In Agent Experience Tools and Recognition

    Deploying the right technology is essential for agents to do their job effectively, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems access to customer data and analytics. Equipping agents with tools and simple ways to do their job with less effort, they can quickly and accurately diagnose customer issues and provide the best solutions. Additionally, having the right tools help agents save time, enabling them to focus on building customer relationships and increasing retention.

    Furthermore, recognizing agents for their hard work and dedication fosters loyalty and appreciation, which fuels them to provide even better customer service on purpose. Recognition can be in the form of rewards, such as bonuses or promotions, or it can be more informal, such as public praise and a personal thank-you call from the CEO. Remember: small actions usually have significant impacts!

    Invest Time and Care in Getting Agent Feedback  

    Including customer service agents in decision-making is another essential aspect of investing in agent engagement. Customer service representatives have a unique perspective and understanding of the customer experience, and their insights can be invaluable to the business. In addition, giving agents a seat at the table to represent the “voice of the customer” makes them feel empowered and motivated to go up and beyond. So, it’s a win for the company, the agent, and ultimately the customer.  

    Key Takeaways for Leaders To Enhance Agent Experiences

    The following are some actionable tactics to improve agent experiences and success for better customer outcomes:

    • Focus on agent well-being, including physical, emotional, and mental health. Tactics include direct conversations, sentiment surveys, and more.
    • Establish a community for agents to provide a space for feedback and support. Include cross-teams in the community to foster connectivity and collaboration.
    • Recognize and reward agents who provide exceptional service. Read customer surveys and social media, as people often mention agents by name.   
    • Provide regular agent training to enhance their skills and knowledge. i.e., Lunch and learns. Onboarding sessions.
    • Create a meaningful work culture and foster a sense of purpose and belonging among agents. 
    • Engage agents in decision-making by giving them a voice at leadership meetings to inform business strategies.
    • Streamline administrative tasks so agents can focus on providing the best customer experience possible and build relationships.
    • Provide customer service to the agent. i.e., if they need help with equipment, respond quickly and fix their pain points as they pay it forward to the customer.


    Investing in agent experience is crucial to delivering exceptional customer experience and long-term success.

    Listen to CXQA Live show where I was the featured guest. We dive deep into agent engagement topics and strategies for Doing CX Right. Got questions? Let’s talk. 

    And sign up for my newsletter full of actionable free tips.


    Article and video part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective. 


    Breaking the Cycle of Burnout and Disengagement: How to Reconnect and Thrive

    Breaking the Cycle of Burnout and Disengagement: How to Reconnect and Thrive

    Have you ever felt drained of all motivation and energy and struggled to find purpose in your work? If so, you’re not alone. Burnout and disengagement are two common issues affecting millions worldwide, causing decreased productivity, low morale, and poor mental health.


    Identifying Burnout vs. Disengagement

    While burnout and disengagement are often used interchangeably, they are different. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, while disengagement is a lack of motivation and commitment to work. Identifying the signs of burnout early on is crucial to avoid its negative consequences.

    Some common signs of burnout include chronic fatigue, decreased productivity, and feelings of cynicism and detachment from work. On the other hand, disengagement is characterized by procrastination, reduced quality of work, and a lack of enthusiasm for tasks.

    The good news is that you can overcome burnout and disengagement by reconnecting with your work and thriving.


    Strategies for Overcoming Burnout and Staying Motivated

    You can take some essential steps to prevent and overcome burnout. Here are some strategies that can help:


    Hacks to Keep People Motivated and Free up Time for Priorities

    • Prioritize tasks: Determine what is most important to do now, soon, versus later. I love the app called “Things” to keep from getting overwhelmed.
    • Take breaks: A “time out” is not just for kids. There are benefits for adults to recharge and re-energize. This can include stretching, taking a walk, or engaging in any activity that you find relaxing.
    • Set boundaries: Learn to say no to requests that don’t align with your priorities or goals. This helps to avoid over-committing and related stress.
    • Delegate: If you have a team, give up some tasks to free up time for strategic initiatives.  And if a friend or family member offers help, say yes with gratitude too.
    • Create a routine: Establish one that fits your lifestyle, including work hours, breaks, and leisure time to create a sense of structure in the chaotic world we live in.

    Productivity “Power-Ups” to Show up as Your Best Self Without Burnout

    Productivity “power-ups” are habits and tools that help you work more efficiently and with less stress. Marcey Rader, a productivity expert, shares many great tips about “power-ups” on my DoingCXRight podcast episode 33. Ideas include:

    • Reduce distractions: Turn off notifications on your phone and computer, close unnecessary tabs, and use noise-canceling headphones to block out noise.
    • Time-block your schedule: Allocate sections on your calendar for specific tasks to increase focus and reduce multitasking.
    • Use a task manager: Some popular platforms are Todoist and Trello, which can help you organize your projects and meet deadlines without relying on your busy brain to remember.

    Tactics to Amp up Energy, Conquer Calendars, and Emails with Focus

    • Take care of your physical health: Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep to boost your energy levels and reduce stress. These may be obvious yet often overlooked.
    • Use the “Two-Minute Rule”: If a task takes less than two minutes, do it immediately instead of adding it to your to-do list.
    • Schedule email and social media time: Set specific times for checking messages to avoid distractions throughout the day.
    • Set calendar boundaries: Schedule your workday with start and end times, and avoid planning meetings during your most productive hours.

    Get More Tips and Tricks To Reduce Burnout and Thrive

    Listen to Stacy Sherman’s Doing CXRight Podcast with featured guest Marcey Rader.

    Product Recommendation:

    Empower Employees and Customer Service Agents With ThriveGlobal’s “Reset”


    While attending 3 Tree Tech Customer Experience Executive roundtable, I learned about ThriveGlobal’s Reset solution presented by Richard Zee. If you are unfamiliar, I suggest you learn more about the popular product designed to help people quickly gain mental resilience, de-stress in real-time, and increase productivity. There are tons of use cases for contact centers, technicians working in dangerous environments, and more.

    ThriveGlobal figured out how to link science and storytelling to help people pause and focus on their breath and what is most important in life. It’s integrated into popular conference platforms such as Zoom and Webex too. More details are on the company’s website.



    Prioritizing your mental health and well-being is essential to avoid burnout and disengagement. By identifying the signs and taking steps to prevent burnout, such as using hacks to stay motivated, taking productivity power-ups, and amping up energy, you can stay on top of your game while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The same applies to your colleagues and work teams, where technology platforms like Thrive Reset can be a valuable resource. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to show up as your best self for your customers, colleagues, boss, family, and friends, no matter what challenges come your way.

    How To Balance BOTH Customer Service Agent Training AND Competing Demands

    How To Balance BOTH Customer Service Agent Training AND Competing Demands

    The Importance of Prioritizing Agent Training in Contact Centers

    Customer Service leaders continue to face a paradoxical challenge – balancing the high volume of customer demands with the need to provide ongoing agent training and development. While it is important to ensure that agents handle as many calls as possible, neglecting their learning and development can negatively impact service levels and agent retention too.

    So why do some contact center managers not make agent training a higher priority? I asked a few leaders and discovered that they view agent training as unnecessary and that the time spent on learning and development programs takes away from handling customer calls. Additionally, they see agent training as a one-time event rather than an ongoing process (indicating they overlook its importance.)

    On the flip side, many best-in-class leaders believe agent training is an important investment and advocate for BOTH learning and development programs AND balancing contact center demands, especially during talent shortages. This approach yields better results for agents and, ultimately, customers too.

    5 Strategies For Effectively Training Agents When Teams Are Stretched

    1. Incorporate Microlearning into Agent Training Programs: Provide bite-sized information that is easier to absorb and retain. Also, increase efficiency by using technology such as E-Learning Modules and Virtual on-demand training to complete at their convenience.
    2. Create a Mentorship Program: Provide ongoing coaching and support to allow agents to continue developing their skills and knowledge. Also, encourage cross-training. Allow agents to have a broader understanding of the contact center’s operations, leading to increased collaboration and a more cohesive team.
    3. Schedule Training During Non-Peak Times: Create learning opportunities during slower periods to minimize the impact on customer service operations.
    4. Utilize Gamification Techniques: Make training more enjoyable and effective by incorporating rewards and recognition into learning programs.
    5. Create a Culture of Learning and Development: Establish a supportive workplace through regular coaching, feedback, and incentives initiatives.


    Investing in agent training is essential for improving customer satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. There are real ROI benefits that become visible over time.

    Aent training does not need to be an either/or situation but rather a “Both/And” win-win opportunity.

    Learn about the benefits of “Both/And” mindset and ways to thrive with multiple knotted tensions happening at the same time.

    Check out my conversation with Wendy Smith, a Professor at the Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware. She has done extensive research on strategic paradoxes and how leaders and senior teams can effectively respond to contradictory yet interdependent demands. I believe it relates to contact center investment decisions too.

    I encourage you to get Wendy’s book co-authored with Marianne Lewis, as you’ll quickly understand our brains love to make either-or choices, and that we choose one option over the other. Yet, there’s a better way through Both/And thinking!

    The Rise of AI Robots in Customer Service: How Humans and Bots Can Co-Exist

    The Rise of AI Robots in Customer Service: How Humans and Bots Can Co-Exist

    As technology advances, we have become accustomed to interacting with automated solutions like IVRs and chatbots for customer service. These systems have streamlined many processes, allowing us to get answers and support quickly and efficiently when companies follow CX best practices. However, the paradigm is changing, whereby it’s not just humans contacting customer care departments but also AI robots acting on behalf of humans too.

    DoNotPay, for example, is launching an AI robot that interacts with customer service agents through live chat or emails to negotiate bills, cancel a subscription, pay parking tickets, and more. So what are the ramifications? At a minimum, employee and agent communication skill building and training need modification. “Robot CX” is becoming a real thing.  

     CX Best Practices When Interacting With AI Robots

    1. Don’t make assumptions. Take time to understand the capabilities of the AI robot. Many chatbots are built on top of existing rule-based systems, which means they are limited in the types of conversations they can handle. So, be aware of what it can and can’t do to manage expectations and reduce frustration. As emerging technology rapidly advances, get educated, so you are always prepared and ready.
    2. Be Impeccable With Your Words: Use concise and simple language. Avoid negative terms, sarcasm, jargon, and technical phrases that the AI robot may not comprehend, leading to longer talk time and aggravation. Likewise, be mindful of legal compliance. The same regulations apply whether conversing with a robot or a human. Everything is trackable so never let your guard down.
    3. Don’t take anything personally: AI robots are not human with emotions. Interacting with bots can be stressful and a test of patience. So, remember that the perceived lack of empathy or understanding is not personally against you. Stay calm and composed. Take deep breaths.
    4. Always do your best:  Focus on delivering meaningful customer experiences, whether human or robot. Robot CX is a strange concept, but it’s a reality, so adopt the changes, or your competitors will outpace you.

    Note to reader: If you have yet to read my favorite book, The Four Agreements, I recommend you do so, which is the basis of my above recommendations. The Four Agreements is life-changing for personal growth and incredibly valuable for leading business transformation, as I explain in my other article.

    People must approach conversations with an AI Robot as if they are interacting with a human customer.

    The lines are getting blurry as to who is on the other side of the customer call or online chat. So, always be friendly, helpful, informative, and impeccable with your words. Likewise, avoid taking anything personally or making assumptions. And do your best when negotiating or solving an issue. Get educated on AI robot capabilities and adapt problem-solving strategies.

    While I’m expressing views about human-to-bot interactions, there will soon be robots handling complaints and questions from another bot. Will they argue? Will they get frustrated like humans? It’s kind of funny to imagine, yet, challenging to comprehend too. Time will tell. Buckle your seatbelts as we’re in for an interesting journey.



    6 Ideas To Increase Employee Engagement

    6 Ideas To Increase Employee Engagement

    What does employee engagement really mean? What are key drivers pertaining to customer care and call center success that ultimately impacts customer loyalty? I answer these questions along with other customer service professionals to help you achieve better business results in 2022 and beyond. Original article by Call Centre Helper here.

    Symptoms that contact centers need to address:

    • High attrition and absenteeism rates
    • Performance dips
    • Health and well-being issues
    • Increased pessimism
    • An instinct that something isn’t quite right

    To help reduce the above challenges, some contact centers have found success in creating engagement plans to meet new hybrid working routines to drive better company culture, knowledge, and behavior.

    Six factors of employee engagement and applications to the modern-day contact center:


    1. Purpose

    What’s your purpose? Is it to serve, sell or retain? Why do employees turn up every morning?

    A simple statement should tell all. For NASA, it was to “Put a man on the moon.” Such a collective purpose can prove to be a great motivational tool.

    Stacy Sherman

    Stacy Sherman

    Yet this principle can be taken to a much more granular level, as Stacy Sherman, an Employee Engagement Expert at Doing CX Right, tells us.

    “Train supervisors to lead with the ‘why’,” says Stacy. “This should come before the ‘how’, as then advisors understand the meaning in what they do.”

    Doing this takes purpose beyond a vague statement. It needs to be driven into the contact center’s core. Building a framework around the purpose can, therefore, be a great idea.

    Such a framework starts with measuring the right things. For example, if the purpose relates to delighting customers, target performance metrics over productivity metrics.

    Of course, to steady the ship, productivity metrics have their place. However, it’s better to avoid managing by them.

    Other ideas for creating a plan to establish a purpose that sticks with advisors and spurs them on are best built specifically for that purpose. Employee engagement ideas include:

    • Set realistic targets that are obtainable
    • Ensure advisors know the significance of their contribution to the purpose
    • Give advisors feedback on their contribution to the purpose

    2. Customer Obsession

    If employee engagement increases but customer experience metrics do not, the contact center is measuring engagement wrong. Linking these two topics is crucial.

    After all, an employee may be having a good time at work – which is nice – but it doesn’t mean that they’re working well. Customer obsession is the missing piece.

    The first step in getting this right is to equip advisors with the necessary knowledge and reskill them. Contact handling skills are, therefore, paramount – alongside knowledge management.

    With good knowledge at their fingertips, advisors can focus on delivering customer-centric service, rather than product-, process- or procedure-centric service.

    An employee may be having a good time at work – which is nice – but it doesn’t mean that they’re working well.

    To embed such a focus within a contact center’s ethos, bring the customer into the contact center, as Natalie Calvert, founder of CX High Performance, recommends.

    “Think about the advisor desktop, communication, team huddles and consider: how are you bringing customer-centricity into your DNA?” says Natalie Calvert.

    Embedding the customer into each of these areas is a great starting point. Then, back that up by following some of the best practices highlighted below:

    • Share great examples of customer-focused service
    • Engage in informal conversations that put customers at the forefront of the team’s mind
    • Research what drives customer satisfaction and apply findings to quality scorecards

    On this last point, discover our advice for identifying important satisfaction drivers by reading our article: How to Get More From Your Customer Satisfaction (CSat) Scores

    3. Culture and Community

    In a hybrid world, what initiatives are bringing together culture and community? What activities are ensuring that there aren’t lots of individual, isolated people working from home?

    Don’t think outside of the box on this. Consider the tangibles that are reinforcing the culture. Here are 18 – split into two categories – to consider from the get-go.

    Culture Community Factors graphic

    Consider the tangibles that are reinforcing the culture. Here are 18 – split into two categories – to consider from the get-go.

    Of course, there will be organization-wide activities that coincide with some of the topics listed. But those need reinforcing with internal plans. After all, it’s an unrealistic expectation that advisors will stay motivated by one activity every month or two. There needs to be regular intervention.

    “Charities are a great way to bring people together around common causes – especially if they have some sort of impact on individuals within the contact centre,” says Natalie.

    So, to foster a positive community, set up regular cake sales, collections and volunteering opportunities for a charity. Other ideas include:

    • Create online communities (and keep them active!)
    • Develop skill pills – i.e. short, sharp skills interventions
    • Run home visits and wellness sessions to improve well-being

    4. Structural Development

    Now working from home, how can advisors become active and valuable members of the team?

    Developing long-term career and training plans is crucial so that advisors feel they’re progressing within their role.

    A thumbnail photo of Natalie Calvert

    Natalie Calvert

    “Start with a broad training and development plan for everybody, launch that as an exciting initiative, tie it in with certifications and assessment, before framing the initiative as an investment in the team’s future,” says Natalie.

    “With that in place, bring in the one-to-one sessions and personalize the plan. Identify which routes are best suited to each individual.”

    Once these development plans are set in stone, schedule conversations to ensure that advisors remain on track and engaged by them. Such interactions may include:

    • Annual formal conversations
    • Six-monthly conversations
    • Quarterly check-ins
    • Monthly reviews

    While this may seem like a lot, tie it in with performance improvement conversations. This kills two birds with one stone.

    Yet, before fixating on performance improvement ideas to engage advisors, here are a few extra pointers for improving structural development.

    • Conduct stay interviews
    • Create mentoring opportunities
    • Offer the team pet projects to further future skills

    Struggling to put together a structural development plan? Try out some of the initiatives in the following article: 10 Career Progression Opportunities to Offer Your Team

    5. Performance Improvement

    Organizations aim to improve every year. That improvement rate is often defined within the contact center’s budget – with the ultimate aim of increasing output for less spending.

    Contact centers, therefore, need more from their people for less. Quality needs to go up, year on year. Yet this doesn’t happen often. Contact centers do what they’ve always done.

    To put an end to this problem and bolster performance, separate performance improvement away from being an HR issue and create a clear plan.

    “The plan should be numbers-led, from the top down to every single individual,” says Stacy Sherman. “Each advisor should also have a ‘guide path’ – so they know what’s expected from them – and personalized coaching to deliver against.”

    Articulating what good looks like is key. Quality scorecard criteria should reflect this.

    If advisors can see how well they’re performing against such criteria, that will spur them on to keep getting better. After all, most people come to work to do a good job.

    To further engage advisors through performance improvement, other employee engagement ideas include:

    • Ask the team: what’s not working? Then act on the feedback
    • Hold morning huddles to instill a positive spirit from the get-go
    • Train leaders to tune into advisor behaviors and offer pick-me-ups

    Uncover lots more advice for steadily improving advisor performance in our article: How to Improve Agent Performance in the Call Centre – With a Checklist

    6. Reward and Recognition

    Don’t rely solely on gamification. There needs to be a wider program of reinforcement.

    The broader role of leaders is to find out what motivates an individual, click into that and motivate them.

    After all, contact center games will never come close to achieving the engagement that advisors have with their consoles at home.

    So, while gamification can bring many benefits, remember that it’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s just one part of reward and recognition.

    The broader role of leaders is to find out what motivates an individual, click into that, and motivate them.

    Next, ensure fairness. Parity across the contact center is essential. Reward schemes can be just the ticket, ensuring that people know what to expect in return for excellent performance.

    Other notable factors of a good reward and recognition scheme include relevance to key contact center goals, regular updates, and behavior conditioning to drive customer success.

    Yet that’s not all. Here are some final tips and tidbits:

    • Celebrate team successes as well as individual achievements
    • Provide immediate consequences for good behaviors
    • Recognize personal preferences when rewarding advisors

    For an extended guide to creating a great reward and recognition scheme, check out our article: How to Improve Your Employee Reward Schemes – With Examples

    Creating a Plan for These Engagement Drivers

    The classic excuse for failing to meet each of these six employee engagement drivers is that there isn’t enough time to make a plan.

    Yet sitting down and creating a strategy for each driver – with short-, medium- and long-term goals – takes only a few hours.

    Just open up a spreadsheet, create a matrix – similar to the one below – and fill it up, incorporating voices from every level of the contact center, ensuring that everyone feels heard.

    Employee Engagement Matrix

    An example Employee Engagement Matrix

    Of course, interventions need planning and roles require defining. Yet, by doing so, the contact center kickstarts a massive activity to take engagement to the next level.

    What are your tips to increase employee engagement at your call center and throughout your organization? I’m interested to hear.